Uterine fibroids (also called uterine leiomyomas or myomas) are noncancerous tumors that form in the muscle of the uterus. Fibroids can form inside or outside of the uterus.
Polyps are abnormal growths of tissue that project from mucous membranes. They may be flat or may appear to be attached by a stalk (pedunculated). They are very common and can form on any part of the body that has mucus membranes.
Polyps also commonly form on the uterus and other body parts, though colon polyps are the most common type of polyp.
The only way to know whether you have uterine fibroids or uterine polyps is to be diagnosed by a doctor. In addition to a patient history and a pelvic examination, tests used to confirm uterine fibroids or polyps or to rule out other conditions include:
What Are Symptoms of Fibroids and Polyps?
Uterine fibroids and uterine polyps both cause heavy menstrual bleeding.
Uterine fibroids may not cause any symptoms. When fibroids do cause symptoms, they may also include:
- Painful menstrual cramps
- Pain, pressure, or a feeling of fullness in the abdomen
- Abdominal swelling
- Urinary frequency
- Lower back pain
- Fatigue from heavy periods
- Painful sexual intercourse
Symptoms of uterine polyps may also include:
What Causes Fibroids and Polyps?
The cause of uterine fibroids is unknown. The development of fibroids may be associated with the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. When estrogen levels are high, fibroids tend to grow, and when estrogen levels are low, fibroids may shrink.
Other factors that may influence the development of uterine fibroids include:
- Genetics: fibroids tend to run in families
- Being overweight or obese
- Consumption of red meat, alcohol, and caffeine is associated with an increased risk of fibroids
Causes of uterine polyps include:
What Is the Treatment for Fibroids and Polyps?
If uterine fibroids do not cause symptoms, no treatment is needed. Fibroids may go away on their own if estrogen levels in the body decrease. This usually happens during menopause, but certain medications, such as gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists or antagonists, may also cause a reduction in estrogen levels.
Treatment for uterine fibroids that cause problematic symptoms includes medications or surgery.
Medications used to treat uterine fibroids include:
- Iron and vitamins for women who are anemic due to heavy periods
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for menstrual cramps
- Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
- Naproxen (Aleve Naprosyn)
- Hormonal birth control to reduce bleeding, cramps, and pain during menstrual periods and to correct anemia
- Skin patches
- Vaginal rings
- Hormonal intrauterine devices (IUDs)
- Antifibrinolytic medicines such as tranexamic acid (Lysteda) to help slow menstrual bleeding quickly
- Progesterone receptor modulators to stop heavy menstrual bleeding and cause some fibroid shrinkage
- Gonadotropin-releasing hormone analogues to cause the ovaries to temporarily stop producing estrogen and progesterone and reduce heavy menstrual bleeding
Surgery used to treat uterine fibroids included:
- Myomectomy: surgical removal of fibroids
- Endometrial ablation: destroys the lining of the uterus
- Uterine artery embolization or uterine fibroid embolization: cuts off the blood supply to the fibroids
- Hysterectomy: surgical removal of the uterus
Some types of uterine polyps may not need treatment and may go away on their own.
Other polyps carry a risk of becoming cancerous and need to be removed. Surgical removal of polys (polypectomy) is the most common treatment for polyps that cause symptoms or that have a potential to be cancerous.
Uterine polyps may also be treated with medications called gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists.